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Solutions to child care challenges shouldn’t involve big government

Earlier this year, the Biden administration issued an executive order intended to reduce child care costs for families and “strengthen” the child care market, but big government attempts to create more affordable and accessible child care neither increase access nor truly decrease costs. Fortunately, there are things federal and state governments and private businesses can do to improve access to affordable child care.

The average national cost for child care is $10,174 per child, according to CNBC, but the Biden administration’s top-down, one-size-fits-all policies are not the answer. Biden’s April 2023 executive order increases subsidies to certain child care facilities. The problem with this policy is that most families prefer in-home or informal day care. A 2022 Bipartisan Policy Center report states , “Parents are satisfied with their informal child care arrangements, and most say formal child care arrangements are unappealing to them. A plurality of parents would prefer their current arrangement even if child care were free and in a convenient location.” In other words, even if the federal government subsidizes a child care center near the workplace, most parents prefer informal child care arrangements such as leaving their children with a family member or another trusted adult.

As such, the federal government would better serve families by lowering taxes, thereby giving them more money to spend on child care as they choose. Heritage Foundation senior research fellow Rachel Greszler states , “Rather than taxing all workers — including single-earner families — to subsidize two-earner families spending more time at home with children, policymakers should lower taxes for everyone to make it easier for all families to pursue the combination of work and family care that is best for them.” Policies should not favor one choice over the other or, in this case, two-earner families using subsidized child care. Instead, money, and subsequently freedom of choice, should rest in the hands of parents to create the family life that works for them.

Thankfully, there are policies that states can enact along those lines.

In most states, child care is a heavily regulated industry, and these regulations often increase child care costs. The Independent Women’s Forum’s recent comments on the Biden administration’s Child Care and Development Fund outlines the financial impact of onerous state-level day care regulations:

A study by the Mercatus Center found that costs of care could be reduced by between $850 and $1,890 per child per year by eliminating regulations not related to the quality of care. A review of childcare regulations around the country reveals ludicrous examples of regulations dictating the minutiae of daycare facilities, such as very specific art supplies and the number and size of balls and other toys, which clearly just create headaches and drive up costs for providers.

When day cares have to comply with onerous regulations, their prices increase, and costs are passed on to hardworking mothers and fathers who pay the day care bills. In this case, day cares and parents alike are negatively affected by regulations. But people needn’t wait for the federal or state government to provide a solution. Private businesses can offer flexibility for working parents — namely, remote work.

Remote work helps men and women balance work and family life. A recent Fortune article explains remote work’s many benefits : “It helps retain women , reduces burnout , and makes it easier to have children and deliver on caregiving responsibilities . According to a recent survey of female hybrid workers that combine in-office and remote work, 88% believe the flexibility of hybrid work is an equalizer in the workplace, and two-thirds say it has had a positive impact on their career growth path.”

Men get similar benefits from remote work. A March 2023 New York Times article reports that the flexibility of remote work allows fathers, including lower-earning men, to help more with household chores and child-rearing. Remote work is not a panacea for America’s child care problems, but businesses can help parents balance family and career by offering flexible, remote work policies.

Instead of government policies that favor one type of child care or family arrangement over another, government policies should put the freedom to choose in the hands of families. Child care is no exception. A combination of lower taxes, deregulation, and remote work can help foster a culture that allows for flexibility, meaningful careers, and thriving families that benefit all people.

Ellie Krasne-Cohen is a visiting fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum ( ) and founder of Krasne Strategies. Follow her on Twitter: @Parisfreedomfry.

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